Volleyball Rebuild Enters Year Two

Last season, Coach Frank Lavishra’s first season at the helm, the Dons volleyball team went 3-28, winless against WCC opponents. After 11 matches across 4 preseason tournaments, the team will begin conference play with an overall record of 7-4, a step in the right direction for Coach Lavrisha, and a sign the program is entering the next stage of his rebuilding process.

“We knew we couldn’t do much in terms of recruiting last year, and we had to just go with it,” Lavishra said. “The first thing we wanted to do was change the culture; we want to build a program of players who work hard and aim to achieve.”

The Dons lost seven players from last season –– four transfers and three graduates –– who combined for an average of 10 points per game in 2017. To counter that, Lavishra has brought 11 new players to the Dons, who have already hit the ground running.

“We’re already scoring more than we did last season,” said Lavishra. “[Junior] Kathya Garcia transferred from Polk [State in Florida], and she’s already contributing greatly. And [sophomore] Emily Zinger has really improved from her freshman year.”

On the court, the Dons run a 6-2 system, meaning the team deploys two setters (S1, S2), two outside hitters (OH1, OH2), two middles (M1, M2), two opposite hitters (OP1, OP2), and a libero in their starting lineup. The lineup is arranged such that there is always one setter in the back row and one opposite hitter in the front row. When the setter reaches the front row, the second opposite hitter replaces her, and the second setter replaces the first opposite hitter. The system ensures that a setter always has three attacking options in the front row, as well as an outside hitter to attack from the back row.

In this system, sophomore Erin Anthony and freshman Ally Wada will be the two starting setters. Garcia and freshman Sophie Syndenham are currently the starting outside hitters on the depth chart, but Syndenham’s versatility could see her moving around the lineup to relieve either setter, allowing freshman McKenna Marshall to take over duties as OH2. At opposite hitter, sometimes referred to as right side hitter, Zinger and graduate student Lena Bondar will start for the Dons. The middle hitter position will be boosted by the veteran presences of redshirt senior Marjolijn Oskam and freshman Kate Ashman. After an impressive preseason, freshman Katie Wagstaff will likely rotate in at the middle hitter position as well.

“Katie is one of the quickest middles I’ve ever seen,” said Lavishra of Wagstaff’s agility in one of the most physically demanding positions on the court.

Anchoring the Dons’ back row will be junior libero Anna Dalla Vecchia, who Lavishra calls “a competitive leader.” The defense will be without last season’s defensive assistant coach Kolby Kanetake, who specialized in working with liberos and defensive specialists. Kanetake was a two-time All American libero at the University of Hawai’i and is third all-time in digs (775) for the Rainbow Warriors. He returns to Hawai’i this season, where he is coaching at Aloha State University Volleyball Club.

In Kanetake’s place, the program welcomed Shane Tye, who joined the coaching staff after working as an assistant coach at Southern Utah University. Tye played three seasons at Brigham Young University as an opposite hitter and toured the country as a coach with Gold Medal Squared Volleyball Camps. Standing at 6 feet 6 inches, Tye will bring new blocking teaching to the Dons program.

Tye also brings to the team a middle-middle defensive scheme, carried over from Gold Medal Squared. In a middle-middle scheme, the libero is placed about 12 to 15 feet from the baseline and exactly in between the two sidelines, effectively in the center of the court. The other two back row defenders set up about two steps behind the 10-foot line and about two steps from the nearest sideline, forming an isosceles triangle with the libero. On pin attacks, two front row players form a double block while the third front row player covers tipped attacks. The logic behind this is that most attacks go to the middle of the court, so it would make sense to play the best passer, the libero, in precisely that spot. The other five defenders are effectively tasked with protecting the rest of the court.

The Dons open conference play against the Broncos of Santa Clara University on Thursday, Sept. 20 at War Memorial Gymnasium. The Dons will then travel to Moraga, Calif. to face the Gaels of St. Mary’s College on Sept. 25. Their biggest test of the season will come against the BYU Cougars, who are currently ranked No. 1 in the nation, on Oct. 11 at War Memorial and on Nov. 10 in Provo, Utah.

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